I have a new appreciation for the apostles in Gethsemane. Just when they should have been at the height of their learning from Jesus they experienced one of their greatest missteps and failures. They should have known. He told them that he was going to be taken and die. They must have somehow inserted what he said into their own narrative because they did not seem to catch on that this was it. This was the end.
I had that kind of failed Gethsemane the day my sweet wife Dawn passed away. We had established a routine that was comfortable for us both. She needed help in just about everything except eating. We had a talk just after she got out of the hospital almost two years before and laid a plan together of how life would be. We put it in a poem. I say “we” because our pattern was that I would write a draft so it was often from my viewpoint and then we would edit it together. So then it was “our” poem. Her grace was that she reveled in making other people look good.
In These Days of Your Sickness by Curt & Dawn Mortimer 08/26/12
We have said we’ll take
In these days of your sickness
Each moment as it comes,
We’ll make the best of it,
And I will love you all ways.
This is a wilderness journey.
There’s always been room
To slip between the trees and rocks.
Let danger loom,
We’ll take the knocks together.
Take my hand.
Like we always have.
We’ll walk into the next . . .
But here’s the unwriteable text:
Grief is a doppelganger of devotion,
A double goer, a phantasm,
An old acquaintance
Coming unannounced for dinner.
I have forgotten Grief
In these years of joyous loving,
But now he appears
At the edges of my vision,
Crouching like a gargoyle
On the ledges of my fears.
Set a while more old friend,
I’m not done loving yet.
So the almost two years were times of establishing routines that worked and then changing them as new problems arose. My promise was to love her “all ways” which was not a measure of time but a measure of different kinds of doings. And that is what I was doing that last day, my Gethsemane. Routine, because I could not see the end. Except for her suffering, I was ready for years of this. We had our devotions every day, three meals together, coffee first thing to open the tubes. Sudoku for her, class prep for me. Watching the news over supper, a movie early evening. Routine.
Jesus last day shouldn’t have been routine. Dawn’s last day . . . We had our tendernesses that were part of the routine, we always hugged when I lifted her from her chair for this or that, but I should have kissed her more that day, I should have held her hand. I should have lingered when I combed her hair. I should have put the lotion on her feet like a lover, and wrapped her leg like a baby. I should have laid down with her, that last short nap. I should have let her go in my arms. If only I had known, I would have. These are my regrets and I am bawling now, letting them out.
I know the standard is too strict. We all wish we could do better than we do. My regret is that she was precious, worth being carried with tenderness and dignity to her final rest. Those who love me shouldn’t be worried. These are the kinds of things grief lives with and grief is the only pain you love to hurt.